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Trump and his Muslim proposal dominate undercard debate

<p>There’s no escaping Donald Trump — even when he’s not on the stage.</p><p>The four low-polling GOP presidential candidates wasted little time responding to Trump’s controversial proposal to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. in the opening minutes of the undercard debate Tuesday night in Las Vegas.</p><p>While none of them endorsed Trump’s ban, their repudiations ranged from the outrage of Lindsey Graham to the mild condemnation of Rick Santorum.</p><p>“What Donald Trump was saying was nothing against Muslims. His comment was against the Obama administration that doesn’t have a policy to vet people who are coming into this country. He brings up a legitimate issue,” Santorum said. “Not all Muslims are jihadists, but all jihadists are Muslims. That’s a reality. We have to stop worrying about offending some people and start defending all Americans.”</p><p>Graham, who emphasized his foreign policy experience and his recent trip to Iraq being his 36<sup>th</sup> visit to the country, blasted Trump’s proposal and argued it’s a threat to national security itself.</p><br><p>“This is a religious war between radical Islam and the rest of the world. And there’s only one way you’re going to win this war: Help people in Islam who reject radical Islam to fight over there and destroy this ideology,” Graham said. “Donald Trump has done the one single thing you cannot do: declare war on Islam itself. ISIL would be dancing in the streets. They just don’t believe in dancing. </p><p>&quot;This is a coup for them, and to all of our Muslim friends throughout the world, like the king of Jordan and the president of Egypt, I am sorry. He does not represent us. If I am president, we will work together. People in the faith … all over the world destroy this radical ideology. Declaring war on their religion only helps ISIL.”</p><p>Asked if he would honor his pledge to support the GOP nominee even if it’s Trump, Graham said he would, but that, “like Bob Dole, I may sleep late that day if it was Trump.”</p><p>George Pataki also blasted Trump as “the know-nothing candidate of the 21<sup>st</sup> century and cannot be our nominee.”</p><p>Mike Huckabee, in his first appearance on the undercard stage after qualifying for the main event in the first four debates, saved his harshest criticism for the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton.</p><p>“If [Trump] becomes president, I think he’ll do a whole lot more to protect us than Hillary would,” Huckabee said.</p><br><p>Trump himself, waiting for his turn in the center of the stage in the main event later Tuesday night, spent the opening minutes of the undercard debate re-tweeting comments from his supporters noting CNN’s decision to use the opening minutes of the undercard debate to tee up an opportunity for his rivals to criticize him.</p><p>Graham, who also criticized Ted Cruz and Rand Paul as “isolationists,” showed the most passion on the issue, not only harshly criticizing Trump but making a point of distinguishing between a plan of action to combat ISIL and his unwillingness to scapegoat Muslims as a whole.</p><p>“There are at least 3,500 American Muslims serving in the armed forces,” Graham said. “Thank you for your service. You are not the enemy. Your religion is not the enemy. Leave the faith alone. Go after the radicals that kill us all.”</p><br>

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